When a family member is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's, you tell yourself that you're letting go of the person in advance, that you have to, that it's kinder because she wasn't in there any more anyway. And it's true that she wasn't, she hadn't been, and it's true that I didn't want her to suffer any more, like she did this year when she broke her hip and no longer had the capacity understand why she hurt. She was like a baby, confused and frightened, and it was never going to get better.
But you're not letting go all the way. Not really, not until you have to. And now I guess I have to.
My auntie Pat was, to the best of my memory, the only one of my aunts who never once said to me, "oh, you're just like Debbie/Deb/Debra [my mom]." Auntie Pat bothered to get to know me. Auntie Pat assumed that I would have interests, that I would be interesting, from before I can remember. Certainly from the time I was 9 or so. She treated me like a person. She bothered with the particulars. She was never dismissive. She never called me by my cousins' names, and since I have cousins named Melissa and Mariah within a few years of my age, that's a feat. It seems particularly unfair that someone who would concern herself with details, specifics, individuals, would have them taken from her.
When Gran died my freshman year of college, my mom told me that we'd been lucky so far, and that we couldn't be lucky forever. We'd had so many old people who had been vibrant and healthy and active and ours. We weren't going to get to keep them indefinitely. She was right. I keep reminding myself that the reason it hurts to lose these people is that I got to have them in the first place, and I wouldn't trade that. My aunt Pat is worth missing. But I do miss her, and I will.